FP3: Mercedes secures hat-trick, Ocon loses nose

Date published: August 15 2020

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Mercedes bagged the practice hat-trick for the Spanish GP, doing it with yet another 1-2 as tyre wear and seeing how far the drivers could push dominated the programme.

The session was brought to an early end when Esteban Ocon crashed his RS20 with three minutes remaining in the session.

The Frenchman had to take avoiding action when Kevin Magnussen on a slow lap moved to the centre of the track as Ocon closed in fast.

He turned right and went nose first into the wall.

The one up down side to racing at the Barcelona circuit is, at least for the drivers, they all know the track very well. The one big down side for the fans, it all too often means a slow start to a practice session. It was just that on Saturday.

Only three driver bothered with installation laps in the first 10 minutes of FP3, one of which was Romain Grosjean whose Haas mechanics broke curfew on Friday night to replace his engine after Friday’s power loss.

Lando Norris clocked the first time of the session, a 1:19.6 on the medium tyres, before Kimi Raikkonen on the softs went quicker, but only just as Alfa Romeo continue to struggle. Raikkonen stated prior to this weekend’s race that there is “no easy fix” and that it will take “time” for Alfa Romeo to recover.

20 minutes in and only Raikkonen, Norris and Antonio Giovinazzi had set times as the track temperature climbs to a steamy 45’C.

The Mercedes finally made their arrival with Valtteri Bottas putting in a slow out lap on the soft tyres before going quickest with a 1:17.9 with Lewis Hamilton’s first attempt putting him 0.35s down on his team-mate. Charles Leclerc, on the medium tyres, was third in the early running but almost a second down on Bottas’ P1 time.

Six laps into his run and Daniil Kvyat reported that his soft tyres “weren’t good any more”. A lap later he added that the “tyre is completely gone”.

Max Verstappen waited until half the session was gone before venturing out of the pits, doing so on the soft tyres and immediately going third fastest. He was half a second down.

After a slow cool down lap Verstappen put in another hot lap, improving his time and closing the gap to Bottas to 0.189s. Hamilton also improved to stay second, 0.106s behind Bottas.

Problems over at Renault as Esteban Ocon was told “that was a problem with… doesn’t matter. Box this lap please. It’s not the gearbox.”

With 20 minutes to go both Ferrari and Mercedes left the pits on fresh soft tyres. Personal bests for Sebastian Vettel saw him move up from 16th to fifth before Leclerc went from seventh to fifth, half a second up on his German team-mate.

As for Mercedes, Bottas went purple in the middle sector to lower his benchmark time to a 1:17.3. That, though, wasn’t enough to keep Hamilton at bay.

The Brit laid down a 1:17.222 to beat Bottas to P1 by 0.151s.

Nicholas Latifi had a go at Verstappen for blocking him, saying the Red Bull driver “complains about people blocking him all the time, he’s not any better”.

Traffic on his final lap meant Verstappen had to settle for third, 0.515s slower than Hamilton with Carlos Sainz fourth quickest.

Sergio Perez was P5 ahead of Leclerc, Pierre Gasly, Lance Stroll and Alex Albon. Daniel Ricciardo completed the top ten.

His Renault team-mate Ocon didn’t fare as well as he crashed late in the session, taking the nose off his RS20 as he tried to avoid the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.

Times
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:17.222 12 laps
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.151s 13 laps
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.515s 10 laps
4 Carlos Sainz McLaren 0.824s 18 laps
5 Sergio Perez Racing Point 0.874s 16 laps
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.971s 15 laps
7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 0.989s 13 laps
8 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1.087s 16 laps
9 Alex Albon Red Bull 1.149s 13 laps
10 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1.162s 12 laps
11 Esteban Ocon Renault 1.380s 18 laps
12 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1.485s 15 laps
13 Romain Grosjean Haas 1.488s 14 laps
14 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1.499s 11 laps
15 Lando Norris McLaren 1.581s 23 laps
16 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri 1.630s 15 laps
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1.718s 15 laps
18 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1.953s 13 laps
19 George Russell Williams 2.075s 16 laps
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 2.542s 16 laps
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